Expat Mining Jobs: What's Life As An Expat Really Like?
Mining professional Dave Dyet worked in expat mining jobs for 18 years over the course of his career. We caught up with him to get the low down on what life as an expat is really like.
Q. How did you become an expat?
I’ve always been interested in mining and geology. Back in 1991 I was working in the construction industry in Sierra Leone until the Liberian invasion meant we had to leave. After a few months in limbo back in Canada I decided to go back to school to study mining and geology. I was desperate to go back to Africa. I missed the place and the people.
Q. How did you begin your life as an expat after your studies were finished?
I used a specialized mining recruitment agency – Cowan International in fact. I applied for a position, received a call from Cowan the next day and was on my way to West Africa fairly quickly. It doesn’t always work that swiftly. A move into expat mining jobs can be hampered by red tape, such as international regulations, visa requirements, health checks etc so my advice to anyone would be – have patience! .
Q. Do you have any advice for mining professionals considering expat mining jobs?
- Have a hobby. I got into photography and spent all of my spare time taking photographs. It’s a great way of familiarizing yourself with your surroundings.
- Check the site conditions. It affects your day-to-day quality of life. If you’re working on FIFO jobs for long stretches you need to know what you’re working with. Do you have access to hot water for example? Check out the facilities too. A good operating mine will offer a gym or a pub. The on-site pubs were always the busiest places at night!
- Creepy crawlies : Be aware of the bugs out there, some guys are squeamish believe it or not but it goes with the territory.
- Food : If you have dietary issues or you’re fussy about food the expat life may not be for you.
- Communication : Internet communication is a major concern for workers in expat mining jobs. It can be difficult to get a connection depending on where you’re located especially in the evening when everyone’s trying to get online. Back in the early 1990s we actually had to write letters and often didn’t hear from our families for two weeks at a time. That's virtually unheard of today but there may still be times when communication is difficult.
- How will your expat life affect your relationships? It’s vital to have a strong relationship and a mutual understanding of what this job is. My wife and I have been together for 20 years but divorce rates can be high in expat mining jobs.
- Immerse yourself in the culture. For some expats it’s all about the money but if you really get to know the people and the places it enhances the whole experience. The welcome and friendliness of the African people were what I loved the most.
- Scheduling : I eventually left due to the scheduling and the impact on my home life. I was working seven weeks, in three weeks off, with three and a half days traveling time each side. The traveling time was taken out of the three weeks off which affected my family time. Professionals in expat mining jobs should always check the fine print of their schedule.
Q. What do you think the recruitment challenges are facing the mining industry today?
The expectations of today’s generation are different, they want improved site conditions, and better communication on site. Mining companies have to overcome that hurdle to attract younger people into the industry. Some mining graduates would much prefer to work in an office rather than on site.
Q. You have a fantastic collection of rock photography and images on your websites, tell us about those.
I’m a geology freak, I love rocks. I had my collection of rocks in the house until we moved house and my wife moved them out into the garden! I love taking photos wherever I go too. When I look at a picture I see an experience. The photos of the Northern Lights are some of my favorites (one of Dave's photos of the Northern Lights can be seen above).
Unfortunately, I don’t think geologists always get the respect they deserve in the mining industry which is why I went back into design and underground mining.
Q. Other interests?
I’m a musician too, I play drums, guitar and the piano which is how I met my wife but that’s another story.
Q. What are you doing now?
After 18 years of fly in-fly out jobs, I started my own independent business at the beginning of this year, utilizing my experience in mining operations and design. I need to be busy. One of my employers became one of my first clients.
Q. What does the future hold?
We have a few options; ultimately my wife and I would like to work together.
Q. Who has inspired you?
My father without a doubt His advice was to always be friendly and get your work done. It was great advice, although he hated rocks!
Q. What was your experience working with Cowan International?
Cowan were always responsive. I had a lot of questions about site conditions and the specifics of the job but they were very thorough and handled the transition extremely efficiently. Some of the site team had also been placed by Cowan and all shared my opinion. I’ve worked with a number of recruitment agencies over the course of my career but Cowan stand out as recruiters and separate themselves from the competition. They are professional, thorough and friendly. I highly recommend Cowan.
Would you recommend Cowan for mining professionals applying for expat mining jobs?
I already have and will continue to do so.
You can see Dave’s collections of photography at Shutterstone.com and Dyet.com.